Chapter 6

Toxicity of Metals

Mad as a Hatter.


The process of felting, employed in making hats many years ago, required the use of mercurial compounds and many hatters suffered from the CNS disturbances, including behavioral disorders, associated with mercury toxicity. Metal intoxication as an occupational disease may be 4000 years old. Lead was produced as a by-product of silver mining as long ago as 2000 BC. Hippocrates described abdominal colic in a man who worked as a metal smelter in 370 BC and arsenic and mercury were known to the ancients even if their toxicity was not. In 1810 a remarkable case of mass poisoning with mercury occurred. The 74-gun man-o’-war HMS Triumph salvaged 130 tons of mercury from a Spanish vessel wrecked ...

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